Why Iran still doesn’t trust Russia on Syria

Several important political and field developments over the past two months have made Iran more suspicious of its Russian strategic partner. These developments include a reported secret agreement between Russia and the United States regarding the Free Syrian Army, Russia accepting the cease-fires without informing Iran and Lebanon and a temporary halt in Russian airstrikes against the moderate Syria opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Iran’s main objective in hosting the gathering was to convey to its Syrian and Russian partners that it is still the main player in the Syrian war and it is not willing to retreat because of Assad or Russian President Vladimir Putin until all its objectives have been realized.

Of note, it also appears that coordination between Tehran and Damascus has grown compared with that between Damascus and Moscow, especially as Assad seems to be growing suspicious of his Russian ally and its objectives in Syria. In a message to his Russian counterpart, Assad recently emphasized, “We will not be satisfied with anything less than complete victory in Aleppo.”

Although Moscow views its interactions with the United States from a longer strategic perspective rather than focusing on tactical gains, it realizes that it cannot bring about the endgame in Syria without collaborating with Tehran and Damascus. This is why Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu traveled to Tehran. According to Iranian sources who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, Shoigu has expressed regret over the Khan Tuman incident and also about Iran not being informed regarding the cease-fire in Aleppo. Furthermore, the Russian official emphasized that Moscow is committed to collaborating with Tehran on all political and military issues.

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